Yup. People were upset and on edge. We heard horrific stories about those who were arrested. Last night's GA was dark. It was heavy... And given this, it is with a lot of sadness in my heart that I also say last night's GA was ugly.
As the anger over the incarceration of our brothers and sisters boiled over, I saw an accused man brought to trial by mob. Sure, what the man known to Occupy as "CR Legal" is accused of doing is ugly. Really ugly. Those accusations have been festering unresolved among the people for weeks now and in part because CR doesn't seem willing to address the accusations. What exactly went down is not yet clear to me, but many people are convinced that CR stole some money that was collected by passing the hat for bail money post N17 at the GA. Yet, he is still there, participating... When someone steals money, would they come back?
What I saw last night was just as ugly if not more ugly then what CR is accused of. People were surrounding an accused man, calling him "asshole" and telling him to "empty his pockets" and leave... People were shouting him down as he attempted to explain himself. In short, it was ugly because of the mob mentality and the lack of due process for an accused man. Worse yet... a black man. Given the history of our society, it just didnt feel right. Maybe some would accuse me of "white guilt" on my part to care that he was black and those surrounding were not, but I have to wonder what people walking up, or watching on live stream with no context, thought of the scene that was unfolding?
Regardless, there is a reason that the founders of this nation set up a legal framework and court system to solve issues between people when they come up. If we wanted to handle the situation internally, we could set up a tribunal of occupiers to deal with the allegations of theft. A forum where the accused can defend against a case presented by the accusers. This is what democracy looks like. Not a MOB of people working itself into a frenzy.
The situation last night is exactly why I've advocated that Occupy LA avoid accepting money at all costs. I have yet to be made aware of a "legitimate" reason for any person or persons of the occupation to accept responsibility for cash or online donations. If we've learned anything, we've learned that collecting cash on behalf of the occupation is going to lead to some undesired situations. Perhaps people haven't had the experience, but I've personally witnessed disputes over money destroy lifelong friendships on buinsess deals gone sour. Imagine when people who don't have any history together share financial burdens!
Instead of taking money donations, we should be completely relying on the needed goods list. Let people out there show their support by donating supplies and goods. Period. Used goods if anything. I realize conllecting money is unavoidable for pressing needs. But please, lets exhaust all other options rather than taking cash in hand or opening bank accounts in people's personal names. People need to be bailed out you say? Set up an account with a bail bonds agent put the word out online and let the public view the account totals. If occupy is doing it's job (winning public support) many many people out there will throw down 10-20 bucks INTO the bail account without caring about some tax deduction. In other words small amounts of money from lots of people. None of us need to touch money or be responsible for that money. Need money for porta potties? SET UP AN ACCOUNT with a portapotty vendor. Need a banner made? Need a tent? Canopy? Set up an account with a banner vendor or ask people to donate REI gift cards and so on and so forth...
As it is, some people in the finance committee, last I heard, have personal accounts with something like $15k in donated funds. I've heard that people had been walking around with large amounts of cash in backpacks... This is alarming. People in the finance committee have appeared at the GA and complained of intimidation by "gangmembers." SMALL WONDER they feel insecure! I've said it before... the personal financial liability is putting undesire-able pressure on people. As such there have been calls to incorporate Occupy LA or make it an official entity in some way. Personally I've been opposed to that. Especially the calls to form a 501c4, the very type of political organization that has abused the supreme court recognition of corporate personhood that everyone rightfully feels is a disease on democracy. But whatever, I'm over caring that much about it... or not.
Moving forward. I urge everyone to let the "real" court system settle the alleged bail money theft dispute and put it behind us one way or another. As I understand, the amount in dispute is $630. Small claims court can handle this. Then. STOP the madness. STOP taking money. Focus on getting the 99% involved, participating and donating their time and resources.
I hope tonight's GA continues to bring the numbers and gets back to the positivity. It is a beautiful thing to see and participate in when people are focused on the big picture. It gives me hope and GA 2.0 is quite hopeful. Without the camp to bog down discussion, we can focus more on the local and national issues, we can focus on a strategy to get more people involved and we can MOVE FORWARD. I'm hopeful that we can do this with more efficiency now. I've heard talk of establishing GA's in every neighborhood. This is AWESOME.